If you are a novice with everything related to silk, you may be astonished to learn that the starting point of the magical process of silk production are the mulberry trees’ plantations. “But how come?” may you ask, amazed by that fact… Well, let’s give you the first clue: silkworms love eating, and their favourite dishes are the mulberry leaves. Therefore, these plantations are no less than a big meal for our little friends.
After three months in a greenhouse, the seedlings of mulberry leaves already reach more than a meter high and are then planted outside. Their growth is amazingly fast as three months later, the trees can measure 2 meters high. Those are then cut at 20cms from the ground and afterwards the leaves are gathered to feed the silkworms. The biggest branches are replanted in the greenhouse as mulberry trees are cut four times a year.
During the first four stages of their development, silkworms are fed four times a day. At the fifth stage, their needs increase and they are continuously fed with mulberry leaves – of which they are very fond of – during 7 to 8 days. When the worms turn yellow, it means they are ripe. So they are picked up and put into special compartment. If you are not worm-phobic, you should try one day to hold one sweet silkworm on your hand and stroke its back with you finger: you will be stunned to feel the texture of silk on its skin!
From this stage, the worms need five days to produce their cocoons. With a quick movement of their heads, they begin spinning their cocoons by secreting a liquid from their mouths. This liquid hardens when in contact with the air and will form the silk thread.
When the cocoon is done, the moth turns into a chrysalis and will secrete another liquid meant to break its silk “shell” in order to get off this squeezed cocoon. That’s why a process is set up to prevent the worms from breaking the cocoon: putting them to dry under the sun will avoid the metamorphosis process. Thus, the cocoon will be able to be turned into silk threads.
About 20% of moths usually reach maturity and become domesticated silk moths, also known as Bombyx, in order to complete the breeding cycle.